Shelters » Tarptents by Henry Shires

Tarptents are ultralight, mobile shelters that shed everything from flying bugs to summer snow. Elegant and airy, Tarptents set up virtually anywhere. Designed by and for the outdoor enthusiast, Tarptents keep you dry and sane no matter the elements. Made in the U.S.A and constructed of the lightest and highest quality materials available, Tarptents let you focus on the joy of the journey, not on the pain of getting there.

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Comments (19)

voodoojohnSeptember 15th, 2008 at 8:39 am

I bought the Contrail this Summer and could not be more pleased. it is light enough to leave my Big Agnes pad and bag inside, roll up everything into a stuff sack and strap it to my handle bars. Single track riding is no problem at all! ~jb

ScottMSeptember 24th, 2008 at 10:17 am

We used the Squall two person tent on a 10 day bikepacking trip in Oregon. I hung it from my handlebars, sometimes by itself and sometimes with my sleeping pad as well.

Having a tent was essential in Oregon because of the rampant mosquitoes. We didn’t have any rain, so I can’t speak to how well it would hold up in a big storm. But it seems sturdy enough, and is made of high quality materials.

It is a little tricky to set up at first. It’s designed to be used with two hiking poles for supports. You can order it with lightweight folding poles that fit neatly into the bag and easily go under the handlebars. That’s what we used. You could get away without the poles by tying it to bike and/or trees, but it was easier to just bring the poles.

One caveat: you need to be able to drive stakes into the ground. We camped in one spot where this was very difficult, so we ended up using rocks to hold it up, rather than stakes. It worked OK.

I’m very impressed with how light and small this tent is. At ~2 pounds it makes a lot of sense couples bikepacking together. Bivy/tarp setups for two people are going to weigh about that much anyway.

APEeRogMarch 26th, 2009 at 11:37 am

I’ve had a Cloudburst for a couple of years, but have used it for a total of only maybe 14 nights. I’ve been happy with it though – great size for it’s super low weight.

honemastertApril 2nd, 2009 at 9:09 am

Anyone use/try the Black Diamond ‘Mid’ line of tents? I’ve seen/used them in the past as a climber. They work pretty well and are also light. Only one center pole required.

MattNovember 4th, 2009 at 8:57 am

I’ve had a Double Rainbow for over a year and I can’t say enough good things about it; it’s incredibly well thought out, very lightweight (just under a kilo with a few tweaks), very cheap for the size and quality plus you can pitch it on rocks etc. if you use trekking poles or some CF poles I ordered. It’s survived some very strong winds, thunder and rain storms, frost and my general clumsiness over several thousand miles. On top of that it’s the perfect size for my handlebars. Five stars!

MattInAustinNovember 5th, 2009 at 6:59 am

I have had the Virga 2 for a number of years and really like it. Not sure if they make it any more though. It sets up very quickly. There is plenty of room in it for one person, two would by pretty tight. I find it has plenty of ventilation, but still gets some condensation as expected. I have the sewn in floor on mine and usually lay down either 2 mil plastic or some mylar as a ground cloth. Works well. One of the main things I like is their customer service. When I purchased the tent they were very helpful with several questions I had. Their response time was very fast as well. They didn’t charge me anything extra to do a rush order either.

ArctosJuly 30th, 2010 at 12:09 pm

I have used TarpTents for seven years-the Virga2 and now the Contrail. Excellent in all conditions except high side winds . Then additional guy lines and stakes needed but effective.

I used the Virga on the Divide Ride during a wet buggy year and it worked very well. the Contail is a an upgraded Virga design that is still very light and easy to carry.

Gear from small cottage makers is my preferred source for equipment. Henry Shires has quickly answered any questions by phone or e-mail. Just good designs, materials and sewing. Five stars from me or six if I could.

Steve BennettSeptember 3rd, 2010 at 6:19 pm

I’m sad to say my experience with Tarptent has been pretty miserable. I bought the tyvek version of the Sublite. Brief timeline:

Dec 2009: purchase
Jan 2010: use it for one night (before seamsealing), a huge rip opens near the top of one side. report the issue with photos, tarptent quickly sends out another one, which they pre-seamseal.
Feb 2010: take the new version for an 8 day hike. on the 3rd day, a rip opens at a bottom corner. closer examination reveals a manufacturing fault: a line of stitching that should help spread the load from the corner is completely missing from that corner.
I report the issue with photos.
8 Mar 2010: no response, so I send a polite follow up.
18 Apr 2010: still no response, so I send a polite follow up.
19 Apr 2010: Henry replies to say he missed my email, tells me to send back both tents, and basically not to bother him again:

Looks like I missed your emails last month. I was away at our sewing factories and missed some mail.

So, I think the best thing is to send both tents back and we’ll refund you. Chalk it up to bad luck and move on. We’ve sold a few hundred units of that model and have had a handful reports of tears. Never twice (except you) and at this point we need to cut our losses. Sorry it didn’t work out.

5 Jul: I send back both tents, and wait for refund.
9 Aug: No response, so I send a follow up.
4 Sep: I send yet another follow up.

At this point, I’m starting to lose patience. I can’t really see any justification for such crappy customer service. The impression I get is that when everything is going well, you get quick responses to emails, he bends over backwards to help. When things get difficult, he clams up.

Apart from all the above, the tent was pretty cool. Very lightweight (though the seam-sealed version was more like 610g, rather than 525g), nice design. Some people claim to have weathered bad storms in it, but my version was pretty leaky. I only had moderate drizzle, and there were at least 3 points where rain was trickling in through the ceiling, along seams. It could probably be fixed with more seam sealing, but honestly I’d prefer a tent that was waterproof “out of the box”.

One thing I did find slightly awkward on the Sublite was the interior space. It’s quite roomy, but not big enough for a hiking pack. Or rather, because of the shape (kind of coffin-shaped), there’s a bit of space at your head, a bit at your feet, and a bit on both sides, but it’s spread out so you can’t put a single, big thing like a pack in there.

RonNovember 15th, 2010 at 11:11 am

My wife and I shared a DoubleRainbow (only had the YouTube sensation happened before this tent was designed, HS would be rich!) on our 2007 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

I ordered one of the first batches. Had problems seam sealing. Henry sent a new one that got lost in the mail and immediately sent another one – no questions asked. After seam sealing the tent held up fine until Vermont – where we applied some new seam sealant as ‘misting’ became frequent in heavier storms.

For us the size was perfect. It’s weight was really low for the time and still is. We never had it exposed to extreme high winds – but it did do well in heavy downpours, with occasional misting.

The sil-nylon material is not as waterproof as some of the heavier fabrics. That’s an expectation one has to really understand. I still use the tent today and would love to get one of the new ones with the zippered fly and extra guy out points.

I had a great experience with customer service from TarpTent. It’s unfortunate to hear the story from Steve. My guess is TarpTents are way more popular than they were in 2007 and there are some growing pains that need to be resolved.

Scot R.May 26th, 2011 at 8:46 am

I’ve had a Tarptent Rainbow for three years – I’ve used it on two separate week-long hiking trips through Yellowstone and the Bob Marshall Wilderness and also on shorter trips. I initially bought it seeking to lighten my load, but despite its feather-light weight, I’ve been impressed by the durability and quality of the tent. It hasn’t failed me yet, even through nights of driving rain and wind. I’m a big guy (6’3″, 225lbs), and the Rainbow is wide and long enough for me to stretch out comfortably with extra room for my gear. Highly recommended.

Steve BennettMay 25th, 2012 at 5:16 am

Another review from me, but unrelated to my previous experience. Since I’m not one to bear a grudge, after the crappy customer experience described above (Henry *eventually* did refund my money – but not shipping), I bought a Rainshadow 2 ( – it’s a 3 man tent at around 1.3kg. I’ve used it for cycle touring, hiking, travelling, bikepacking…

On the plus side: it’s super light. And the single skin experience is ok. I’ve used it in pretty much worst-case conditions (Tanzania, high humidity and all night rain) and even the constant misting didn’t really get me down. And it’s roomy – 3 people is fine, 2 is luxurious.

On the down side: what’s not obvious with tarptents is they work much better with hiking poles. Real hiking poles are far more rigid than the aluminium replacements you can buy. A tent this big needs a lot of tension to stay taut, which bends the aluminium poles. And the design (two vertical poles plus a horizontal cross beam) is terrible in wind – it flaps all over the place and would probably break fairly easily.

The bathtub floor also doesn’t work at all on a tent this size – it needs at least another hook at the midpoint of each side. Guy rope attachments half way up the sides would be really helpful as well, plus longer pegs (again, because of the tension required).

So, a decent, light, tent which works well for a 3 man summer bikepacking expedition – but in retrospect, go for one of the tents with arch poles, since you won’t be carrying trekking poles with you.

newfydogJune 16th, 2012 at 8:42 am

So far one trip with the three person Rainshadow 2.

Pros: Good price
Incredible room for two in a tent this light
Good ventilation.
Really really light and compact

Cons> You can freeze with that good vetilation—need heavier bag with tent this light

The single rear stake takes alot of tension and can pull out bringing it all down.

have not been in rain yet but it looks like it has to be pitched perfectly or rain will come in the sides. I’ll add some side guy lines.

wesroAugust 31st, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I have had a Squall 2 with the attached floor, bug netting, and the single pole up front for over 5 years and have been very pleased. I have used the tent in heavy rains in the Southeast, Rockies, and the Sierras. Nice room for the weight, and its even breathable for the humid south.

Rob in PbApril 30th, 2013 at 7:56 am

Some helpful commentary from crazyguy:

meyers66January 18th, 2014 at 12:33 am

I bought a Rainbow 2 with 2 stakes a few years ago and used it 4 nights. Only one night was I able to stake it out properly because the ground cooperated. Huh? The other nights I didn’t have a flat soft surface. The other 3 nights were terrible. A hard surface will not work. A rain hardened surface won’t work. A rain saturated surface won’t either. Then I bought a NF Tadpole and didn’t look back. I’d rather double the weight for a solid tent that is bullet proof than one I can only use in perfect conditions. Helping the small business didn’t work in my case.

FTC RiderJanuary 23rd, 2014 at 5:13 pm

myers66, just curious, what was the problem with staking? You couldn’t get the stake into the ground? If that is the problem, then, yes, any free standing tent resolves the problems of dealing with stakes. I have a couple of tents that are not free standing and it does mean you can’t set it up on pure rock and if the soil is really rocky, sometimes it can take a bit to hammer the stakes in (I often use a rock as a hammer if it the soil is too hard to penetrate just using my hand or foot to push it in) and sometimes I hit a rock under the soil and have to move the stake a bit and try again. However, I have used the tents with no problem in almost all conditions in several states (I don’t use them when going to Utah or other places where it is predominantly rock). I also found that replacing the original tent stakes with titanium stakes helps since they won’t bend and can really take a beating. Of course, tent selection comes down to what each person is looking for and what conditions they will be in so I am glad that you discovered that a free standing tent is what you are looking for. However, there is nothing wrong with the Rainbow except purchasers should understand that it is not a free standing tent.

video gamesJune 26th, 2014 at 5:08 pm

At this moment I am ready to do my breakfast, once having my breakfast
coming yet again to read additional news.

DaveJune 11th, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Tarptent makes great stuff and Henry was great to talk to when I had questions. He recommended the Notch for me and I have been extremely happy with it. One of those things that’s simple but not simplistic. Prob used it 30 nights so far and it’s been enjoyable, reliable, durable. The only improvement I can think of would perhaps be Cuben fiber versions (though obviously that has its own problems, not the least of which is $$$).

BigginsAugust 18th, 2016 at 1:45 pm

I camped in a ProTrail for about 2 months straight on a bike tour of the southwest. I loved the compactness and easy pitch. It made me nervous to not have a freestanding tent. I purchased the optional poles and they worked fine. There were a couple times I had to set it up lashed to big rocks which worked fairly well but it took some McGyvering. It does ok in the wind but it must be lashed in all points. Even then you will probably not have a good nights sleep in a sustained wind situation. This would still be my go to tent if weight was an issue, which it often is. The tent does feel a little flimsy but it is strong for what it is. There wasn’t a lot of precipitation where I was but I was fully satisfied in the rain and snow I did encounter. (I seam sealed it myself)

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